Unlikely as it sounds to my sweet-loving mind, I made it through my third Christmas and Easter seasons without touching a single wheat flour cookie. In fact, I haven't eaten a bona fide wheat cookie since May of 2012. There have been times when I struggled mightily because I felt deprived of all of the food-related pleasures that others were enjoying. Since then, I've discovered the wide and wonderful world of gluten free baking. These are not your mama's gluten-free cookies, people. Eat, celebrate, be happy.
The grain-free world has literally exploded with delicious cookie and dessert recipes in the last couple of years. Many talented food scientists/artists all over the internet have changed my life. Listen to me... I am no longer deprived. I eat cookies. Delicious cookies. And most of the time, the ingredients are astonishingly good for me. I love my ingredient lists and don't feel guilty when I eat several. No more stomach aches. Just good solid nutrition.
I tossed the last bit of my wheat flour last year and am slowly learning how to bake efficiently with alternatives. One of the obstacles I faced at the beginning of my journey was actually having the ingredients on hand when I needed them. I have recently been inspired by the constant calls for help on social media to provide a list of my basic wheat free whole food pantry to share and to reference. I'm including links (yes, some are affiliate links) to the places where I purchase my own supplies with exceptions noted.
An important word:
Just because something says "GLUTEN FREE" does not mean that it's health food or even remotely nutritious. When I say "Gluten Free Baking," I am NOT referring to the box mixes that are starting to glut the shelves. Those are basically gluten free versions of garbage food. Rice flour, corn flour, tapioca flour, and potato flour are not health food; they are cheap, easy, and nutrient deficient wheat flour substitutes. There's a place for these goodies in our lives... BUT... If you eat a lot of them regularly, you will get sick and gain weight.
So, when I say "gluten free baking," I am referring to splurge food that actually contributes to my overall health. Nut flours, healthy fats, and real food. Do these ingredients taste different than the Ho Ho's you grew up on? Yes, they do. But over time I have actually come to prefer the rich tastes of real food flavors rather than chemical fillers...
Grain-Free Baking Pantry Staples
My pantry no longer showcases giant containers of wheat and sugar but all of the following are regulars. They are not as cheap as white flour and sugar but like I have said so many times and know from experience... Good food is cheaper than hospital bills. If you don't know my story, read it here.
This list doesn't cover everything but it does cover the staples that I try to always have on hand. Your own gluten free pantry will be shaped by your favorite recipes and family need. Here's my basic shopping list... scroll down for more information about each...
Shredded unsweetened coconut
*Recipe resources included below
1. Almond Flour
Almond flour is a staple at my house. We don't use it daily but we use it regularly in everything from chocolate chip cookies to pancakes to birthday cakes. It is expensive but worth it to my family. A good and nutritious chocolate chip cookie when you are gluten free is worth it's weight in gold!
I buy Honeyville almond flour in bulk through Amazon in 25-pound increments because it is a couple dollars cheaper per pound that way. The drawback? The packaging is really impractical and you will need to repackage into gallon freezer bags asap (if you have room in the freezer) before storing. I store them flat so they stack like books. It is also available in 5-lb bags which is more money per pound but not as challenging to keep.
I have tried Bob's Red Mill from our local stores but the texture is not as fine. I would call it almond meal instead of flour. Also available on Amazon if you prefer it. They may have perfected it by now but I'm not into spending money to find out.
A Favorite Recipe: Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies
2. Coconut Flour
Coconut flour prices are a bit of a sticker shop but it does last a long time. Coconut flour tends to absorb moisture from recipes so a little goes a long way. It cannot be used to replace regular flour 1:1 but is excellent in many bread, muffin, and cookie recipes. I even use it to "bread" my pan fried chicken and none of the kids can taste the coconut.
I buy Betterbody Coconut flour locally at our BJ's Wholesale Club for a good price. It is available on Amazon as well and the price fluctuates. Bob's Red Mill is available locally and online and works fine. I have also purchased Honeyville online although I find that it isn't fine enough for my baking preference (last time I tried it anyway).
A Favorite Recipe: Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chip Streussel Topping (pictured in the picture at the top of this post)
Most of the muffins, cookies, and cakes that I have been making lately do not require sugar but do call for honey. Local organic is certainly preferable but I use so much that I am priced out. I just buy big jars at our warehouse club. (I'm not going to let the perfect get in the way of the good here.) If you can afford raw, local honey, I am thrilled for you and encourage you to go for it.
A Favorite Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Muffins (I like to add an extra brush of honey a couple minutes before they come out of the oven)
4. Coconut Milk
I use pure coconut milk for much of my gluten free baking as a cow's milk substitute. I'm not talking about coconut drink, I'm talking about pure coconut milk untouched by other ingredients. This goes in our cookies, pancakes, smoothies, homemade ice cream, and cakes. And when I'm really missing ice cream and feeling lazy, I eat it straight with frozen berries. Nice, delicious healthy fats!
Golden Star is the only brand I have found that is free from soy or any other ingredients except coconut milk and water. I find it in cans at my local Walmart in the asian food aisle but you can also find it for sale on Walmart.com and off and on through Amazon. If you don't mind soy, there are a number of other shelf brands available. The soy is there as an emulsifier but it changes the texture. With the pure coconut milk, the cream will separate from the water and rise to the top. You can mix it up again or just use the cream as is. I advise mixing for any recipes which call for coconut milk.
A Favorite Recipe: Creamy Chocolate Avocado Smoothie (This isn't really bakery but it's dessert-ish. When I am feeling run-down, I love this kind of super boost recipe for increasing my healthy fats and nutrients.)
5. Coconut Oil
I use coconut oil for everything from moisturizer to cooking. I fry in it, bake with it, wash baby's head with it, make lip balm with it. I look for it on sale locally but have also purchased online. There are different ways to buy coconut oil but unrefined is going to provide you with the most nutritive value. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature but has a low melting temperature... do not be alarmed if it turns to liquid in a warm house.
Vegetable oil is forbidden in my house. Wherever it used to be in baking, it is now replaced with coconut or olive oil.
A Favorite Recipe: Fudgy Chocolate Tarts
6. Cocoa Powder
There are many brands of organic cocoa powder out there and I recommend them if you can afford it... but I just use Hershey's because I burn through it. Yum. It's yet another example of how I must compromise with the perfect until I am no longer feeding a family of nine. As soon as my grocery bill goes from shocking to reasonable, I would love to make the switch.
A Favorite Recipe: Almond Butter Fudge
Here's a picture of a recent Gluten Free Easter creation. The cake is made from a cocoa and almond flour/coconut flour base. The frosting is buttercream with grass fed butter... Not particularly healthy but definitely gluten free and delicious! I rarely eat dairy but this was an enjoyable exception!
7. Shredded Coconut (Unsweetened)
Unsweetened shredded coconut is difficult to find around here so I order mine online and love the product. My favorite brand is Let's Do Organic and buying it in bulk on Amazon is the best deal for me. I have a lot of trouble finding this locally.
A Favorite Recipe: Peppermint Chocolate Macaroons
8. Cacao Butter
Cacao Butter is a beautiful food that I consider an indulgence. Not cheap. I use it to make my own chocolate energy bar (aka homemade chocolate with chia thrown in for fun and protein) and to add to an occasional recipe. I have purchased from both Rose Mountain Herbs and Amazon.
A Favorite Recipe: Chocolate Coconut Energy Bars
9. Vanilla extract & Vanilla Beans
Most commercial brands of vanilla extract have sugar added so I've started making my own. When I have to buy it, I double check the ingredients to make sure that it is just vanilla and alcohol. I also buy vanilla beans to use in very special desserts.
A Favorite Recipe: Blackberry Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
10. Sea Salt
Available pretty much anywhere.
A Favorite Recipe: Paleo Salted Caramel Sauce
Because I am very sensitive to soy and soy is even in most organic chocolates, I buy Green & Black's organic dark chocolate for my splurges. In addition to the clean ingredients, I also find the taste more pleasant than other leading brands. I buy mine at Walmart locally but you can also find them at Amazon.
12. Chia Seeds
These can be found many places but I buy them in larger quantities online to get a discount. I add them to smoothies, homemade larabars, and chocolate.
A Favorite Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Chia Pudding
These little fruits are a surprisingly wonderful way to sweeten up many desserts. Get yourself a good food processor (I found a Cuisinart at a garage sale) and a whole new world of healthy dessert will open up to you. My Ninja does not handle dates well. You can find them anywhere that sells groceries.
A Favorite Recipe: Paleo Chocolate Energy Bars
15. Coconut Sugar
Sometimes you just need something to replace white sugar 1:1 in a recipe and coconut sugar does that really well without the same affect on your glucose levels as white sugar. The taste is good. Texture is good. And it is finally available locally for a reasonable price. I buy Betterbody at our local BJ's Wholesale and on Amazon when the prices dip.
A Favorite Recipe: Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies
This is not your mama's knox gelatin. Gelatin is a wonderful for joint and bone health and even better when you know that the source is all grass fed beef. I buy Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin. Not cheap but what else is new when it comes to eating for health? Gelatin is used in many paleo and gluten free recipes to help desserts set up without eggs or cheese.
A Favorite Recipe: Chocolate Gelatin Squares
I have to conclude by passing on my current favorite resource (besides Pinterest) for the most wonderful gluten free recipes ever. I have not been disappointed with any recipe I have tried from Against All Grain. Danielle Walker is a beautiful person with an inspiring story. In addition to her website, her physical cookbooks are absolutely gorgeous and useful and I've also enjoyed her holiday ebooks.
I also love Simply Gluten Free Magazine. I have found some incredible and nutritious recipes in here as well as a heads' up to new brands and tips for eating gluten free.